The man in charge of the Catholic Church’s payouts to Melbourne victims of pedophile priests says the majority of them are happy with the process.
Most victims of pedophile priests are happy with the Catholic Church’s Melbourne compensation process, the man in charge of the payouts says.
But David Curtain QC says capped payments to victims cannot compensate for the harm done to them.
Critics of the Melbourne archdiocese’s scheme for handling abuse complaints say it is overly legalistic and re-traumatises victims.
Attention is focused on those who weren’t happy with the Melbourne Response but many victims got a lot out of it, said Mr Curtain, the compensation panel chair.
“There are many people who are very happy with the system and express their gratitude for us doing our jobs,” Mr Curtain told the child abuse royal commission on Friday.
“We try to treat them with respect and we try to explain the system and many of them say, even during the hearing, how much they appreciate that.”
Mr Curtain said many of the victims among the 326 upheld abuse claims which went to the panel would not have won damages if they were common law legal cases.
He said victims were very interested in counselling, while some wanted an apology and others didn’t.
“Many of them express no interest in the money at all,” he said.
Mr Curtain said he pushed to get the capped payouts increased from $55,000 to $75,000 in 2008.
“I readily agree the cap does not reflect full compensation,” Mr Curtain said.
He said the payouts – originally set at $50,000 when the scheme was set up in 1996 to handle abuse complaints in the Melbourne archdiocese – intended to mirror the upper limits of compensation payments to victims of crime.
“I thought that the victims of crime compensation had moved upwards and I suggested to the church that they do that as well,” he said.
Victims have criticised church investigators for discouraging them from going to police about their abuse but Jeffery Gleeson QC, an independent commissioner with the Melbourne Response since 2012, said he urged every victim to contact police.
“I will tell them I urge them to do it but if they don’t want to do it, I’m not going to force them,” Mr Gleeson said.
Victims’ groups also labelled comments from Cardinal George Pell to the commission comparing the Catholic Church with a trucking company as outrageous.
Cardinal Pell accepts the church has a moral obligation to victims but when it comes to its legal responsibility the actions of its priests are not necessarily its fault, he argued.
He told the commission: “If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible.”
Anthony Foster, the father of two girls raped by notorious abuser Father Kevin O’Donnell, said the comparison was clearly wrong.
“The very fact is that if the trucking company had known the driver was going to do that, they could have been sued at law. The Catholic Church cannot be sued at law,” Mr Foster told reporters.